[Synopsis]: Fleeing from his elder brother who wants him dead, Kurou (Miyano Mamoru) and his servant Benkei encounter a mysterious woman by the name of Kuromitsu (Park Romi) living alone in the mountains. Kurou falls ill and while he stays with Kuromitsu they fall in love with one another though he quickly discovers her dark secret – she is an immortal vampire who sustains herself with the blood of others. When Kurou is mortally wounded he makes the decision to drink Kuromitsu’s blood and become immortal himself. Upon waking from his recovery, he finds himself suddenly thrown 1000 years into the future of a now post-apocalyptic Japan, ruled by the Red Army and still recuperating from a nuclear winter the populace has dubbed ‘The Great Distaster’. Kurou takes up arms with a revolutionary group called the Haniwa in order to find Kuromitsu once again.
Each aspect and attribute of Kurozuka is an unmitigated disaster however none more so than its cast of characters. The cast itself is quite small and the story focuses almost entirely upon Kurou and Kuromitsu with meager insight into a handful of other characters. The characters actually aren’t all that problematic on an individual level – there isn’t any one character trait that trips things up or irreversibly damages the narrative because the cast as a whole lacks pretty much any and all characterization. Even now, after having finished the show, I could not describe to you any feature or element of Kurou or Kuromitsu’s characters that does not pertain to their physical character design. This is where the greatest fault of the show occurs.
The number one issue with Kurozuka, putting aside its overwhelming lack of character insight, is that the story and characters revolve around and depend upon the relationship of two people that the viewer learns next to nothing about. Moreover, their attraction to each other comes off as incredibly unfounded in that, as it is portrayed in the show, Kurou and Kuromitsu don’t know each other for more than a few days if not fewer than 24 hours. The show then expects the viewers investment when Kurou is thrown 1000 years into the future and his sole purpose becomes getting back to Kuromitsu and reestablishing a relationship hours in the making.
This is all condemning enough however the nail in the coffin is the dialogue or lack thereof. Not only does their relationship contextually make very little sense but they share almost no dialogue with one another and only scraps of that details anything akin to an emotional statement. This issue with the dialogue is farther reaching than merely the main characters and extends to the supporting cast as well – all of the characters introduced completely lack chemistry with one another. Despite the fact that show exhibits very little dialogue in the first place, Kurozuka attempts to portray its characters as allies, friends, and enemies despite the fact that they know nothing about each other.
The show expects a reaction when it paints something in a dramatic light by killing a character or showing something gruesome but the scenes possess no meaning behind them. The dialogue and the characters are vague and detached, the villains are as inscrutable as they are one-dimensionally evil, and the show’s protagonists are woefully uninteresting.
Though Kurozuka possesses innumerable problems, its art and animation are at least acceptable though there are a few issues with the visuals none the less. The first episode opens with quite a promising action sequence – the fights in the first episode are surprisingly fluid and energetic as the camera tracks each sword stroke and clashing blow. This quality of animation quickly deteriorates afterwards however and while the visuals themselves are consistent they are simultaneously very underwhelming. The fight sequences quickly become more focused on quick cuts and singular slashes and blood spatters as opposed to the first episode’s full on sequences and this drains an already starving show of even the smallest shred of interesting content. All that can really be said is that the viewer should be prepared for a lot of blood.
There are a few flashy sequences throughout however certainly nothing worth watching the show over and Kurozuka actually blends its intermittent CG into the environment rather effectively. Where it does poorly is in how it implements the many flashbacks which detail Kurou’s past which arrive like any other scene without preface or visual distinction. Without context, it is often quite difficult to tell when the show has entered a flashback and when it has simply shifted locations and given the pervasiveness of the flashbacks as a storytelling tool, this can be rather frustrating. There are also some surreal visual elements that don’t really play off of anything else and are far more awkward in juxtaposition to the rest of the show than they are interesting.
It is certainly possible to detail each fault and defect of Kurozuka’s story however I find that is more effective to address its main issue in summary – that its story was staggeringly incomprehensible. This manifests in a variety of ways and can be seen in how poorly the show frames its flashbacks to how crudely it illustrates certain narrative details such as Kurou’s missing memories. Until it is stated outright in the latter half of the show, it is wholly unclear that Kurou is missing his memories
The beginning of the show is actually rather grounded as it establishes its premise – Kurou and Benkei encounter Kuromitsu in the mountains and after spending a short time with her he proportionally falls in love with her. After imbibing her blood and becoming immortal along side her, he awakes in the distant future and this is where the story becomes completely unhinged. Kurozuka approached its subject matter and story with so little regard for their implications that each scene feels meaningless and uninteresting. The way in which Kurou interacts with the future is particularly discomforting as the show didn’t seem to have a coherent mindset towards this.
On one hand, he awakens only to walk to the edge of a cliff and stare out across a vast, decimated cityscape – the visuals a far cry from the 12th century forest-covered mountain range both he and the viewer occupied only moments before. Kurou not only displays no tangible reaction to this but immediately sets off on his journey to reunite with his beloved Kuromitsu, traveling through the city and conversing with different individuals in completely unfazed fashion. Though he appears to possess no knowledge of the era he has effectively landed in, he is able to identify what a gun is and use it to great effect. Even worse is that he openly asks what a motorbike is having never seen one before and then pilots one perfectly not a minute later in the fashion of a stunt-driving super spy in a high speed, bullet-dodging, helicopter-fighting chase sequence. Kurozuka possessed absolutely no regard for the implications of its scenes and the actions of its characters and this makes the show progressively harder and harder to stomach.
The narrative isn’t something as straightforward as being confusing, it is thoroughly unintelligible. From what I can tell, Kurou allies with a revolutionary group against the Red Army which rules the new world and hunts both Kurou and Kuromitsu for her blood and in order to obtain the secret to eternal life. Beyond this, Kuromitsu’s involvement in the story, the motivation of some of the antagonistic characters, and the implications surrounding many of the developments are unfathomable and the only thing the viewer knows less about than the current events of the show are the characters themselves. The vast majority of the cast, including the main characters, are completely uncharacterized and this makes an already mind-numbing plot even harder to watch as you have no single character gives the viewer a reason to care about the events unfolding. Characters come and go and the show endeavors to portray this in a dramatic way but because so little is known about them, their deaths and reappearances fall totally flat.
While the soundtrack wasn’t outright bad, it didn’t do much in the way of improving the show or making its drama any more palatable. For the greater part, Kurozuka’s music plays out in the backdrop and doesn’t lend itself particularly well to the show though it avoids openly damaging it any further.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Without writing a full on essay it is hard to encapsulate just how troubled Kurozuka truly is – from its inadequate ability to tell a coherent story to its complete inability to present even one iota of engaging dialogue. It was certainly one of the worst shows I have ever seen and given its many issues I can say that its only redeeming quality was its own brevity. The romance between Kurou and Kuromitsu, if it can be called such, is the single worst portrayal of a relationship I have witnessed.
I gave Kurozuka a 1 because it failed in every aspect of storytelling. It was unclear what the ramifications of each scene were and the developments were uninteresting and detached. The protagonists were the closest thing one could achieve to ‘traitless’ characters and the dialogue throughout the show was so starved for information and meaning that it was practically torturous to listen to.
While I wouldn’t recommend Kurozuka to anyone due to its multitude of issues and lack of appeal, what I can say is that for anyone looking for something with a lot of blood, moderate action, and next to no story – it would be an adequate pickup. Though narrative train wrecks can be beautiful and a show can be bad enough to be good, I would say that this is not one of those cases though watching it ironically may hold some merit.